Hundreds of boom box toting revelers serenaded Mission streets with a cacophony of ethereal hums  on Saturday as part of San Francisco’s seventh annual Unsilent Night.

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The carolers first assembled in Dolores Park to pick up cassettes and CDs containing one of the four parts of music New York composer Phil Kline created to be played in harmony.   Then they paraded west on 19th Street with stereos blasting, weaving through Mission alleys before looping back to conclude in the park.

Kline organized the first Unsilent Night in New York in 1992, and this year the event will be held in at least 25 cities worldwide.

In San Francisco, the event has become a Christmas tradition for many.

“I come back because this is my favorite thing to do during the holidays,” said Heidi DeVries, a four-year Unsilent Night veteran.  “Sorry family, but its better than spending time with my family.”

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I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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